Plan remains for 'meaningful' Central West Rugby Union competitions

LOOKING UP: The plan remains for play to go ahead in the Central West competitions in 2020. Photo: AMY McINTYRE
LOOKING UP: The plan remains for play to go ahead in the Central West competitions in 2020. Photo: AMY McINTYRE

A number of the state's major regional competitions have been cancelled for 2020 but Matt Tink stated it would be premature to abandon any Central West Rugby Union (CWRU) play at this stage.

The CWRU chief executive still wants to have "meaningful competitions" go ahead this year and he added the fact so many clubs have already started modified training sessions is proof of their commitment.

A Central West competition could be one of few to go ahead in the bush this year after it was confirmed there will be no play in the Newcastle, Illawarra, and Central North regions because of the ongoing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and it's impact on communities.

The premiership competition in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union will not be played for the first time since World War II.

"We're still planning for a July 18 kick-off," Tink said.

"I think Central West Rugby Union would consider it premature to cancel competitions this year.

"Clubs are committed to playing and it's up to us to provide the platform for them to play meaningful competitions."

A number of Central West clubs have begun training already while both the Dubbo Kangaroos and Dubbo Rhinos are planning to kick things off this week.

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Those training sessions must comply with current restrictions, meaning only groups of 10 are allowed together while there is no contact and sanitising stations are a must.

While stating he was well aware of the seriousness around the virus, a frustrated Tink said the protocol in place is "ridiculously onerous" on volunteers.

But the fact clubs were still willing to go through all that to get together again shows the enthusiasm for the game in this region.

"It shows commitment to the game, to their clubs, and the towns they live in," Tink said.

"A number of clubs have already started and others are ramping things up so it's our intention to have a meaningful competition but it's not in our hands.

"A lot of people have been accusing Rugby Australia of inaction but it's not Rugby Australia or Rugby NSW.

"It's the state and federal government and their guidelines. The hierarchy is fighting for us.

"It's just quite difficult from a government point of view to get us back playing."

Frustration has been growing within sporting circles and last week some of the state's top netball players wrote and open letter to premier Gladys Berejiklian with their concerns around a "major lack of guidance" in relation to a return date for their sport.

Tink is well aware of a similar feeling in rugby and he's received many calls in recent times demanding answers and information.

"That's part of my job but people like certainty and like to know their commitments and we can't offer that," he said.

What the game itself would look like in any 2020 competitions is also up for debate.

Rugby Australia will this week look at recommendations put forward in a report completed by World Rugby chief medical officer Martin Raftery and a number of other health officials.

The report was put together to analyse the risk of transmitting the virus on-field and to minimise that recommendations have been put into place which would change scrum, tackle, ruck and maul situations.

It has also recommended regular sanitisation of the match ball, changing jerseys at half-time, a ban on huddles and celebrations, and the banning of spitting and nose clearing.

Tink stated he had not seen the recommendations but did state some changes could be "a little over the top".

Tink is due to meet with NSW Country Rugby officials this week and any major updates from there could be passed on at a Central West meeting the following week.

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